Monday, February 2, 2009

Balti Chicken

You probably know that Balti is a type of Pakistani cooking. You may not know that there are still Balti people living in the northernmost regions of Pakistan. Baltistan was once an independent kingdom. It's now part of Pakistan but it's commonly known as "little Tibet." Despite a remote and inhospitable terrain, the area is a magnet for trekkers and climbers who are drawn to the area by imposing mountain peaks that include K2. The Balti people welcome outsiders and love to share their colorful history and aromatic food with visitors. Balti is a type of Kashmiri curry; the name refers to the place where it originated as well as the dish in which it is cooked and served. A true Balti pan is made of cast iron with a round bottom and handles to facilitate the serving of food. The curry is served with bread - like naan or pita - that is used to scoop it up. Traditionally, no utensils are offered and only the right hand is used for scooping. The way the food is served reflects a tribal, nomadic culture that is romantic and slightly alluring to those of us not eating on craggy slopes in extreme weather with only horses to keep us company. The curries are simple to prepare but their flavors are complex as you are about to see.

Balti Chicken

2 pounds chicken thighs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups chopped red onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt + salt to taste
1 (14.5-oz.) can chopped tomatoes
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions for garnish (optional)
Naan or pita for serving

1) Cut each thigh into 4 or 5 approximately even-sized pieces.
2) Heat a wok or heavy skillet over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat sides of pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant.
3) Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, chili powder and salt to pan. Cook for 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water. Stir-fry over high heat until mixture thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent burning.
4) Add undrained tomatoes and 1 cup water to pan. Cook, stirring often, until mixture thickens and oil rises to surface, about 10 minutes.
5) Add chicken, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and chili flakes and simmer until chicken is tender, about 25 minutes longer. Add water if mixture becomes too thick. Stir in cilantro and garnish with scallions if using. Serve with naan or pita. Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Anonymous said...

Very exotic beautiful dish!

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourite curry dishes and something I miss, living outside the UK which has the most amazing Indian restaurants and always the first port of call when I visit home!

Donna-FFW said...

Dish looks loaded with fantastic ingredients. Once again, I love your lttle culinary lessons, quite interesting and quite unusual from what I normally read. Thank you! Dish looks so gorgeous!

The Blonde Duck said...

I always learn something when I come here!

Martha said...

It looks wonderful. another great use for chicken thighs!

Maria said...

A very colorful dish!! Looks wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Looks very beautiful. Kashmir being in India, balti dishes are very popular through out the country. Indian Cheese (paneer) is also prepared in the BALTi form.The restaurants acutally serve the food in the Balti, even tho they do nto cookin them.
Its really nice that you try out recipes from all over the world & enjoy them.

Pam said...

What a flavorful chicken dish. I've never had it before but I love all the ingredients and spices. It looks delicious Mary.

Lisa said...

I love the spices in this dish and the beautiful color. Your recipe and description makes this exotic cuisine sound approachable in my kitchen.

Bits said...

This is very informative... tks for sharing!

elly said...

Mary, io sono un'amante e una collezionista di spezie. Per cui tutte quelle elencate sono presenti nella mia dispensa. Ho salvato la ricetta perché certamente per me è un'ottima idea per prepararmi il pollo... Buona domenica!

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